This section is from the book "The Boy Mechanic Vol. 2 1000 Things for Boys to Do", by Popular Mechanics Co.. Also available from Amazon: The Boy Mechanic, Vol2: 1000 Things for Boys to Do.
When a pendulum is not periodically supplied with energy its amplitude grows smaller and finally the motion ceases, due to the resistance of the air and the friction at the point of suspension. Usually the suspension is in the form of a knife edge bearing against plates of agate; sometimes the pendulum rod is simply attached to a very slender and flexible spring without any bearings. But the minimum of friction is obtained by means of magnetic suspension, as the following experiment will prove.
If the rod of a pendulum about 12 in. long, beating half seconds, is sharpened to a needle point and suspended from one of the poles of a magnet, it will be found that, if set into motion, it will continue to swing 15 times as long as the ordinary knife-edge suspended pendulum, and it will not stop until after about 16 hours, while one working on agate plates will stop in from 50 to 60 minutes. Similarly a top, provided with a fine-pointed axis of iron, will spin much longer when suspended from a magnet.
Magnetic suspension is used in precision instruments; for example, the minute mirrors which are used in certain telegraph systems to register writing photographically at the receiving end.